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Britannia And Council Wrap Up CPO Inquiry

Last day sees both sides on the attack

Written by . Published on July 21st 2011.

Britannia And Council Wrap Up CPO Inquiry

MANCHESTER City Council and Britannia Hotels have concluded their CPO battle over the London Road Fire Station.

David Elvin, QC acting for Britannia Hotels, said the council's claimed urgency for the acquisiton had been 'seriously exaggerated' and said the CPO was not in the public interest.

"To refuse to confirm the CPO would be to continue the present unsatisfactory state of affairs, which has already continued for far too long."

He also claimed council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein 'acted outside his authority' with the CPO, and did not follow the correct process. He also said it was designed to drive Britannia 'into the arms of Argent,' which has expressed an interest in working with the council on the building.

"The council seeks to use the CPO as a means to obtain control of the building," he said. "The regeneration of the building is only an incidental objective."

He said the council had created uncertainly for Britannia despite the council granting planning consent for a 4-star hotel, and the CPO hung over the developer 'like the sword of Damocles.'

He argued the CPO would do 'more harm than good' and delay the development of the building, which Britannia has owned for 25 years. He also said to compare the Britannia of today to that of 25 years ago was unfair.

Elvin claimed the condition of the building was not as poor as some reports carried out for the council had indicated, and compared it to the condition of some of the council's older buildings, such as Heaton Hall, the Welsh Baptist Chapel and the Town Hall itself.

He then made reference to Argent's recent restructure, saying there was 'no certainty' they would be able to conclude a deal with the council.

The council said it had been considering a CPO since 2006 and that it gave Britannia fair warning.

"Arguably, as Sir Howard accepts, the CPO should have been made sooner rather than later, but it has always been MCC’s hope that a CPO could be avoided," said Charles George, acting for the council.

He argued the CPO hung on two points - whether Britannia was going to redevelop the building and if not, whether there was sufficient public interest in the council acquiring the fire station.

"To refuse to confirm the CPO would be to continue the present unsatisfactory state of affairs, which has already continued for far too long," said George.

The case has now been passed to the Secretary of State to make a decision, which is expected to take at least two months.

You can follow Simon Binns on Twitter @simonbinns

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